Microsoft to fund Ubuntu (sort of…)

Posted in Computers, Ubuntu on March 14th, 2010 by Andy

Three of the Microsoft dollars that could soon be in the hands of freetards

Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) released in April contains a small but interesting tweak. The default search engine and home page in the bundled Firefox browser will be set to use Yahoo instead of Google.

Seems like a small enough change, but what makes it interesting is that Yahoo and Microsoft have recently announced that Yahoo’s search engine will actually be powered by Microsoft’s Bing. Whenever an Ubuntu user types a search into their Yahoo search box, they’re actually using Microsoft’s search engine, and Yahoo pays Canonical for bringing them a customer. The exact nature of the deal between Yahoo and Microsoft is secret, but at least in a broader sense some of the money Microsoft is throwing at Yahoo is eventually making it’s way into Canonical’s pockets.

I don’t think anybody has set out to do this deliberately, but i’ll bet Canonical are laughing their arses off.

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Why IE will win the Microsoft browser ballot

Posted in Computers, Windows on March 6th, 2010 by Andy

How do you build a better web if the majority of people cling to a crap browser?

Microsoft is evil incarnate, everyone knows that. But fear not, the European Commission will save us!

In all seriousness, Internet Explorer’s poor track record of security, innovation, web standards compliance and media support is bad for the internet. So in theory breaking the stranglehold that it has on the market is a good thing. The slight problem with that is that it won’t work.

The source of the problem is obviously the fact that IE comes bundled with Windows. Most people just use the browser that comes with their system. This isn’t a trait confined to tech-blind Windows proles, i’ve seen a fair amount of the same attitude from supposedly switched-on Linux users when Chrome was released. If the default does everything you ask it to, why try a new browser? New things are weird and scary.

While the browser ballot isn’t a bad idea, it won’t result in a major shift in behaviour for Windows users. The folks who are inclined to try another browser have mostly already done so, or at least know that it’s an option. The rest will stick with what they know. That’s fine, most people aren’t too fond of change and just want their computer to shut up and get on with it.

The real good that will come out of the ballot is that all IE6 and IE7 users will be upgraded to IE8 if they click on it. So ironically the biggest winner is likely to be IE itself. That’s pretty much the opposite of what the EC intended, but so what? Personally i’m not bothered at all. If the name of the game is getting rid of browsers that hold back web innovation, then switching from IE6 to anything else is still a win.

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Google confirms the rumours: a Google OS is coming

Posted in Computers, Linux, Tech, Ubuntu, Windows on July 8th, 2009 by Andy

microsoft-vs-googleThere’s been constant rumours of a Google operating system since the dawn of time. A while back they let slip that inside the Googleplex they use a customised version of Ubuntu (called Goobuntu, naturally). Lately they’ve developed their Chrome browser and the Android mobile operating system. Since they compete against the likes of Microsoft already, surely it was just a matter of time before they attacked Redmond where it hurts: the desktop OS?

Google says it’s all true

Chrome OS will be a lightweight Linux distro aimed at the netbook market. All they’ve said so far is that they aim for speed and focus on the web. Presumably that means plugging right into Google’s excellent range of cloud services, as Android does.

They’ve also said they will use a “new windowing system”, by which they probably mean this distro won’t be wearing either Gnome or KDE. Hopefully that isn’t going to break compatibility with the vast number of existing Linux apps, which would be a massive shame for users.

No word either on whether Google will be maintaining their own repo, or whether they’ll be piggybacking on one of the established distros. Also under wraps is which browser this web-centric OS will be running. Android runs Webkit and Google have strongly promoted Firefox for years, but the obvious choice would seem to be the Chrome browser.

So not a lot of detail, but tantalising news indeed. Netbooks pre-installed with Chrome OS should be available in late 2010.

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Windows 7 Release Candidate downloads

Posted in Computers, Windows on May 6th, 2009 by Andy

windows_7_graphicMicrosoft have unleashed the Release Candidate for Windows 7. It’s gratis and valid until the middle of 2010, after which point you’ll have to fork out some hard-earned if you want to keep it.

If you don’t want to download through your browser here’s some direct links for the downloads:



There are also a ton of torrents available but be VERY careful with these. Don’t install anything you’ve downloaded by torrent unless you check it against these SHA1 checksums:

32-bit: 7D1F486CA569EFFFFB719CFB48355BB7BF499712

64-bit: FC867FE1AB2E0A9796F9E4D155B44EA6998F4874


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Windows 7 vs Vista vs Ubuntu

Posted in Computers, Ubuntu, Windows on February 6th, 2009 by Andy

Following on from my review of Windows 7, here’s some interesting benchmarks:

Windows 7 vs Vista vs Ubuntu Benchmarks

Short version: Win 7 beta already outperforms Vista on most  benchmarks except for some types of file transfer.

One thing of note is that both Vista and Win 7 have a relatively large disk footprint, meaning they will both be of limited use on netbooks and laptops fitted with the new solid state drives. I suspect manufacturers will stick to slow and fragile old HDDs for Win 7 netbooks to avoid pricing themselves out of the market. Either that or Microsoft will have to extend XP availability again.

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Windows 7 Review

Posted in Computers, Windows on January 21st, 2009 by Andy

This is me, jumping on the Windows 7 Beta bandwagon:

Room for one more?

Room for one more?

Now, i’ve barely used Vista, and i’ve never installed it. Pretty much all my Windows knowhow is from XP, which is currently pensioned off as a gaming-only OS, while Ubuntu runs my PC on a day-to-day basis. So i’ll be looking at two things:

  1. How does Win 7 stack up against current Linux desktops?
  2. How far have Microsoft come since XP was released?

I installed Win 7 into a Virtualbox OSE virtual machine, using an image hosted on my network storage. Microsoft have been making noises about Win 7 having a lighter footprint than their endomorphic spawnling Vista, so I decided to give the VM 512MB of RAM, 64MB video memory and a 10GB chunk of hard drive space.

MS seem to have tidied their installer up a lot since XP. The partition editor was nice, although no word on whether this will play more nicely with multi-boot systems than previous incarnations. Windows’ habit of overwriting the MBR without asking is a particular pain in the arse on previous versions.

Visually, I like this installer. Plain black, with a pulsating Windows logo.  Nice. It also asks a lot less dumb questions than XP did.  For example, no long do you have to specify you locale, AND your language, AND your keyboard. Instead Win 7 just asks your location and presumably makes an educated guess for the others. In the vast majority of cases this guess would be correct, and the others can correct this after getting to the desktop.

In fact, up until reaching the desktop the overall experience is markedly improved over XP, and on a par with current Linux installers such as Ubuntu’s Ubiquity. Ubiquity asks a few more questions, but they’re good features such as migration of profiles from existing OSes, and the powerful partitioner Gparted is still better than anything Microsoft are offering.

Once into the desktop it’s pretty standard Microsoft stuff. A single panel at the bottom of the screen contains the familiar Windows start menu, task bar and notification area.

Windows 7 quickly identified the first spanner in the works: it had no driver from Virtualbox’s network adaptor. This is familiar territory for anyone who’s installed XP in Virtualbox, but i’m surprised that Microsoft still aren’t including drivers for all the virtualisation suites in the default install. Sure, it’s a Beta, and they may be in the final release, but if anything Betas are more likely to be installed into a VM.

Obviously, the network adaptor is a show-stopper these days, but it was a good chance to see Win 7 handling faults. The failed network kit popped up in the notification area, which offered a diagnostic scan. This correctly identified the lack of a driver as the issue. Overall this was pretty slick, and would have allowed a non-geek user to bottom out the problem easily. Nice work Microsoft.

Also of note is that Win 7 will nag the user to install antivirus, and even lead them straight to the downloads. Unfortunately we’re stuck with IE8 at this early stage. IE has always only been good for downloading a proper browser IMO, and I don’t expect IE8 to break this mold. On first run it spammed a lot of decision boxes about nonsense such as “accelerators” which seemed to be an MS attempt to tie your browser into their web services. Proving once more that Google really has them shitting themselves.

As for the much-blogged-about new UI, I found it poor overall. Their new taskbar makes no differentiation between launchers, shortcuts and running apps. Worse, the bar only shows logos, with no text title unless you mouseover. This is dock-like behaviour, but the difference is that users generally customise their own docks, so know what the various icons are.

The first real app I ran was from a disk image mounted to Win 7’s (virtual) CD drive. Bizarrely, it failed to take focus, and I actually ended up launching it twice, as I hadn’t noticed the icon appear in the taskbar. This is just plain bad UI, especially since the second instance I tried to run threw up an unhelpful “failed to run properly” error message. Notice to MS: if I run an app, I want it to immediately take focus. Who wouldn’t?

The other big dissapointment was the return of something I haven’t seen in a long time on Windows: the Blue Screen of Death. Sadly Win 7 sports the same incredibly unhelpful BSOD page as previous versions of Windows. In the course of installing antivirus, browser and Flash I had two BSODs, which is not good. Some of this may be my fault. Running a beta browser like Chrome on a beta OS like Win 7 is probably asking for trouble.

Rough edges aside, the OS looks like it has promise. The system was reasonably snappy, and the menus and tools, while not overly intuitive in themselves, were similar enough to previous versions to make them fairly straightforward to use. If Microsoft can sort out the stability issues and improve the taskbar it should make a good replacement for XP when it retires in a few years time. Needless to say, a lot of underwhelmed Vista users will look to switch, too.

Personally, however, I was very happy to shut down the VM and get back to Ubuntu. Windows 7 seems like a nicer environment than XP, but it’s still a long, long way behind Gnome and Compiz Fusion.

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